On the evening of 11th April, 1881 Mrs Ann Reville, the wife of the local butcher, was found murdered in their home, which was located at the back of their shop in Slough. The Witney Express and Oxfordshire and Midland Counties Herald told the story of the murder in its edition of Thursday, 21st April 1881:-
A dreadful murder has been committed at Slough, the victim being a Mrs. Reville, wife of Hezekiah Revile, a butcher, residing in the Windsor-road, Slough.
It seems that Mrs. Reville was sitting in a chair at the accounts, and was so left by her husband at half-past seven on the evening of the 11th inst., who then went out, and having made two or three calls, went to a public-house to have a glass of ale.
About a quarter to nine a Mrs. Beasley, living a few doors off, went in to see Mrs. Reville, and found her sitting in a chair dead. There was a frightful cut, evidently inflicted with a cleaver, across her head, and another wound at the back of the neck. Mrs. Beasley at once went out to give information to the police, and met Sergeant Bowden, of the Bucks Constabulary, who went to the house and then called in medical aid.
Dr. Buée was quickly in attendance, and he pronounced life to be extinct.
SEVERAL IMMEDIATE SUSPECTS
Suspicion at first pointed to the husband of the deceased; but it appears that he has lived on good terms with his wife, who was of great assistance in the business.
The police, having made inquiries, had their suspicions directed to a young man named Payne, in Reville’s employ, who was apprehended the same night at his mother’s house, the Royal Oak, and was removed to the Slough Police Station.
THE INQUEST OPENS
At one o’clock next day Mr. Frederick Charsley, coroner for South Bucks, held an inquest on the remains of the murdered woman at the Crown Inn, High-street, Slough.
Captain Tyrwhitt-Drake, Chief Constable of Bucks, and Mr. Superintendent Dunham watched the proceedings on behalf of the police.
THE BOY’S EVIDENCE
Philip Glass, butcher boy, in the service of Mr. Reville deposed that he had been in the employment of his master for two years, Payne having been engaged sometime before him.
On Monday night witness had his tea about six o’clock. Mr. Reville left home at about ten minutes past eight, leaving Mrs. Reville in the inner room, sitting at the books, and he was with her, Payne being in the shop.
Witness left at twenty-five minutes past eight, and then Payne was going through the room which he and his mistress were sitting, and went into the back kitchen. The children were upstairs. He saw the saw and two steels on the block, but he did not notice the chopper, and could not say it was not there when he last saw it.
Afterwards, it was on the block. (The cleaver, covered with blood, was here produced in court.)
Witness had not heard of any disagreement, but he had heard his mistress speak to Payne, complaining at one or two things. As far as he knew, Mr. and Mrs. Reville had lived upon good terms. He had seen Payne write; he wrote to his girl. Witness had never heard Payne use any threat. About a month ago, Payne was going to leave, and Mr. Reville asked him to stay. He had not heard any complaint lately.
By a Juror:- The chopper was always kept in the shop. Payne had nothing in his hands when he went through.
By the Coroner:- Payne had told him that he would have to remain a quarter of an hour to rub some hams.
By a Juror:- About a month ago Payne gave notice to leave. Mr. Reville went on about something, and he gave notice.
THE HUSBAND’S EVIDENCE
Hezekiah Reville said that he lived in Windsor-road, Slough, and was a butcher.
Glass had been in his employ about two years. Payne having been longer.
He was at home all day long, and went out a little before eight, his wife being at the books. Glass was at her side, and Payne was in the front shop. He was asked to rub some hams, but did not do those be was told.
Witness, on going out, went first to James Wilmot’s, then to Mr. Green’s, and from the latter place to the White Hart, where be remained till he was sent for.
He had had occasion for some two months to complain of Payne’s work. He was more in the public-house than attending to his business, and he made Glass do the work. Payne afterwards improved, but witness had had to complain lately of his neglect and being late.
He heard his wife complain of Payne on Saturday night. Witness found a piece of steak concealed under a blade-bone, and, on remarking that he should like to find out who was the thief, his wife said, “Ah, you’ll never do that. You have not seen half that I have.”
He called upon Mrs. Glass about her boy on Saturday.
Witness saw Payne writing on a piece of paper when he left the shop.
Witness told Mrs. Glass and Mrs. Slaney that he was going to dismiss Payne. His wife had told him that if he did not get rid of Payne, she would. Some lady passing by had cautioned her to look after Payne, and from that time she used to put the money in her pocket instead of letting it lie about. Payne had been greatly annoyed since, and there had been a great difference in his manner to his mistress.
Mr. Superintendent Dunham produced half a sheet of notepaper which had been found upon the table near the cleaver after the murder. The coroner read the pencil writing upon it, which was as follows:-
“Mrs. Reville. You never will sell me no more bad meat like you did on Saturday. I told Mrs. Austin, at Chalvey that I would do for her. I done it for the bad meat she sold me on Saturday last.H. Collins, Colnbrook.”
Examination continued:- Witness had a customer named Collins at Chalvey, and supplied him with meat on Saturday. He had no customer of that name at Colnbrook. Mr. Collins had never complained of any meat which he had sold him. It was Glass’s duty to assist his wife in making out the accounts.
Payne lived at home with his parents, and he usually left about eight o’clock. He did not give him any special order to remain later on Monday night.
He had no idea of any person having a disagreement with his wife, and had not missed anything from the house. So far as he knew no robbery had been committed.
MRS GLASS’S EVIDENCE
Mary Ann Glass said that Philip Glass was her son. He was 14 years old.
Mr. Reville called upon her and told her he had lost a quantity of steak, and he wished her to find out from her boy how it had been taken.
Her son said he did not like Mr. Reville to think that he knew anything about the matter.
MRS BEASLEY’S EVIDENCE
Elise Beasley said that she lived next door but one to the deceased and that she was in the habit of going into her house to keep her company.
Witness went to Mrs. Reville’s about half-past eight. She went in by the front shop door, which was open. She looked from the shop through the window to the living room and saw deceased sitting in a chair facing the window, and a book open on the desk. At first, she thought she had fainted, but afterwards could see that she had injuries on her neck.
She fetched Mr. Laight, who went into the house while she got the doctor.
Mrs. Reville had never told her that she had any suspicions about Payne.
She did not go into the room, and did not see anyone about. The gas was burning in the shop.
ALFRED PAYNE BROUGHT TO COURT
Alfred Augustus Payne, who is under the surveillance of the police, was then brought into the court. He wore his butchers’ blue frock, and though evidently impressed by his position, bore himself with considerable calmness, considering his age was only 16.
He was duly cautioned by the coroner that anything he might say would be taken down and used, if necessary, against him, and, in reply, he said:-
“I’ve only got to say that Mrs. Reville was sitting at the books when I came out of the door. She said, ‘Good-night’ to me, and asked me to shut the door. I asked her if I should shut the shop door. She said, “No, turn the gas down and leave the door open.'”
The tools were all laid together on the block when I came out except for the knife, and that was laid against the weights and scale.
It was 8.32 when I came out of the door, and I made straight home. I looked at the clock.
That is all I’ve got to say. I don’t want to say any more.”
MR LAIGHT’S EVIDENCE
George John Laight deposed that he last saw Mrs. Reville alive about tea time.
He went into the house about twenty minutes to nine, and saw that something was the matter and that Mrs. Reville was dead or nearly dead.
He did not see her move in the slightest.
SERGEANT HEBBES’S TESTIMONY
Police Sergeant Hebbes, of the Bucks Constabulary, deposed that he was coming up the High-street at about seventeen minutes to nine, and, upon being informed of what had happened, he went straight to Mr. Reville’s.
It was just a quarter to nine.
The deceased was sitting in a chair, facing the window, and the large ledger was open at the 19th of March.
He saw a large wound on the right side of the neck, and two others on the head. There was a great quantity of blood about and it was quite wet.
On the ground, he found a pen, and behind the deceased was a table, upon which there was a chopper, with blood and hair upon it, and some papers. Both back doors were shut. On the table was a note near the chopper, and there were splashed of blood on the cloth and on the floor. The doors were not fastened. Lying on the floor was some money and a handkerchief.
The witness went into the back kitchen, and near the looking-glass was a hand brush, another lying on a table on the opposite side of the room.
The inquiry was adjourned for a week.”
THE JURY’S VERDICT
At the resumed inquest, the Jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Payne, and, at his subsequent court appearance, he was duly ordered to stand trial for the murder at the Aylesbury Assizes.
However, at his trial, which took place on Thursday 5th May, 1881, the jury, after having deliberated for thirty minutes, returned a verdict of not guilty, and Payne was acquitted of the murder.